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New treaty’s entry into force set to curtail global mercury crisis, say NGOs


“While there are alternatives to mercury, there are no alternatives to global cooperation,” said Michael Bender, coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group. “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere”
“Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.”

In October 2013 the convention text was adopted and signed by 128 countries, but would not take legal effect until at least 50 countries had ratified it formally.  This milestone was reached in May of this year, and the convention enters into force today 16 August. 

“We are now on the right track,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Manager, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co- coordinator. 

“Over time, the Convention is expected to provide the necessary technical and financial resources to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury worldwide. Governments must therefore move swiftly towards efficient implementation of the Treaty’s provisions”.

The aim of the Convention is "to protect the human health and the environment” from mercury releases.

The treaty holds critical obligations for Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.  In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

The First Conference of the Parties will take place from 24 to 29 September 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.  Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.

The Minamata Convention joins 3 other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.


For more information, see:




Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Project Coordinator ‘Zero Mercury Campaign’, European Environmental Bureau, ZMWG International Coordinator
T: +32 2 2891301,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Michael Bender, ZMWG International Coordinator, T: +1 802 917 8222,   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " data-mce-href="mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes to the editors:

Mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury - accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in our bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children. 

*The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of over 95 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project.  ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.  Our mission is to advocate and support the adoption and implementation of a legally binding instrument which contains mandatory obligations to eliminate where feasible, and otherwise minimize, the global supply and trade of mercury, the global demand for mercury, anthropogenic releases of mercury to the environment, and human and wildlife exposure to mercury.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe's largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations, standing for environmental justice, sustainable development and participatory democracy. Our experts work on climate change, biodiversity, circular economy, air, water, soil, chemical pollution, as well as policies on industry, energy, agriculture, product design and waste prevention. We are also active on overarching issues as sustainable development, good governance, participatory democracy and the rule of law in Europe and beyond.

We have over 140 members in over 30 countries.

EC register for interest representatives: Identification number 06798511314-27
International non-profit association - Association internationale sans but lucratif (AISBL)

Home Press Releases EEB-RPN-MPP Blog: In global first, NGOs urge Europe-wide ban on CFLs by 2018
EEB-RPN-MPP Blog: In global first, NGOs urge Europe-wide ban on CFLs by 2018 PDF Print
Monday, 02 November 2015 12:00

Mercury Policy Project

EEB- RPN-MPP blog: In global first, NGOs urge Europe-wide ban on CFLs by 2018

Environmental NGOs[i] are urging the European Commission (EC) to restrict sales of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), showing how they can be feasibly replaced with lighting emitting diode (LED) lamps, which are safer and more energy efficient. 

The Commission’s environment directorate has, in many cases, the power to restrict electronic equipment that contains mercury (or other persistent toxic chemicals) from the market under the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive.[ii]  

“LEDs are already available, mercury-free, and have surpassed CFLs with respect to energy efficiency, lamp life and performance, ” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Zero Mercury Project Manager for the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). “The time is ripe for an EC decision to take commonly used CFLs (<30W) off the shelves throughout the EU by September 2018,” Lymberidi-Settimo added. “This will boost innovation and create jobs.”

The NGO comments are in response to the EU lighting industry’s  request to the European Commission to continue approving RoHS mercury exemptions for most categories of fluorescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting equipment, including CFLs. This could result in these mercury-containing products continuing to be sold for as long as the law allows.

 “Our research clearly shows that LEDs are environmentally preferable to CFLs from a lifecycle perspective,” said Alicia Culver, executive director of the Responsible Purchasing Network.  “LEDs use less energy, last three times longer, and are less toxic than CFLs. Also, because the price of LEDs has been dropping rapidly, while their performance has been dramatically improving, LED lamps are now a practical and affordable alternative to mercury-containing CFLs for most general purpose lighting applications.”

The groups point out that their case is bolstered by research from the European Commission and its consultants predicting that the availability, performance and price of LED lamps will continue to quickly improve.

“LEDs are rapidly becoming more cost competitive, especially when their ability to cut energy use, nearly eliminated  replacement needs and when waste disposal costs are factored in  ,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. “Besides, shifting to LED technology moves us away from fossil fuel dependency, since nearly one-fifth of global electricity use is in lighting.”

Workers can be exposed to mercury when manufacturing, transporting, installing, recycling or disposing of mercury-added lamps, while consumers can be exposed when fluorescent lamps are broken - the greatest risk is indoors where there is no ventilation to remove mercury vapours immediately after breakage.

According to Lighting Europe’s exemption request, less than half of the CFLs sold in the EU (45%) are collected and recycled. NGOs are concerned that the longer CFLs are allowed on the market, the more they will create a mercury waste problem since they will be entering the waste stream (in volume) for many years after the ban.

For other lamp categories (such as fluorescent tubes and High Intensity Discharge -HID- lamps), NGOs want lower mercury limits to be imposed when the current RoHS Directive expires – or shortly thereafter (within the next 2 years). Research shows that many lamps in those categories are already meeting the proposed lower mercury limits as manufacturers are increasingly using more accurate mercury dosing methods.

“Our research, which is based on data provided by major European lamp manufacturers, shows that many types of fluorescent and HID lamps can operate with much lower mercury levels and still have high energy efficiency and a very long lamp life,” said Culver.

The deadline for comments on the mercury exemption requests for lighting equipment was 16 October 2015. The Commission is expected to make a decision by the end of 2016.


[i] Environmental NGOs include:

-- The European Environmental Bureau, (EEB), www.eeb.org, is a federation of more than 140 environmental citizens’ organisations based in all EU Member States and most Accession Countries, as well as in a few neighbouring countries. These organisations range from local and national, to European and international. The aim of the EEB is to protect and improve the environment of Europe and to enable the citizens of Europe to play their part in achieving that goal.

--The Mercury Policy Project (MPP), a project of the Tides Center,www.mercurypolicy.org, works to promote policies to eliminate mercury uses, prevent the export and trafficking of mercury, and significantly reduce mercury exposures at the local, national, and international levels. We strive to work harmoniously with other groups and individuals who have similar goals and interests.

--The Responsible Purchasing Network, www.responsiblepurchasing.org, is a non-profit organization based in the United States that helps government agencies, institutions and businesses to specify, evaluate and purchase environmentally preferable goods and services including high-efficiency, low-toxicity lighting equipment. 

[ii] See restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment; see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/rohs_eee/legis_en.htm.